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Thanksgiving With Diabetes

Thanksgiving is filled with carbohydrates and sugars – just think of all the holiday’s staples: stuffing, candied yams, gravy, mashed potatoes and all the different pies. According to the American Diabetes Association, the majority of people eat well over 2,000 calories during their Thanksgiving meal. That’s just not an option for people with diabetes, since eating high-sugar foods can wreak havoc on their blood sugar. Approach the holiday season this year by offering healthy dinner options and you’ll help your family enjoy a meal that’s better for them while being mindful of your guests who may have diabetes.

Hosting Thanksgiving for guests with diabetes

The key to healthy eating is to plan ahead. Planning the holiday meal to include healthier options will make it easier for your guests with diabetes and guests who want a more healthy Thanksgiving dinner enjoy themselves.“If you know someone who has diabetes will be attending your feast, the best option is to not draw attention to it but instead, offer a variety of foods that everyone can enjoy,” Kim Boaz-Wilson, a diabetes educator and executive director of Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma, said. “Mix in several options of low-calorie and low-carb foods into the meal such as placing a raw vegetable tray in the food line with the platters of gooey goodness.”

Certain diabetes medications may require a person to eat a snack sooner than the meal can be served, so it’s a good idea to have out snack foods like a fresh vegetable tray with light spreadable cheeses or dips for guests to enjoy whenever they need to eat. Boaz-Wilson also suggested offering low-carb or sugar-free drinks, such as unsweetened tea.

Another way to help is to serve food family-style or buffet-style so guests can make their own selections and control their own portion sizes. Serve things like gravy in a separate bowl so people can choose how much to add. However, don’t change every tradition or change the way you normally host Thanksgiving with the sole reason of accommodating a guest who has diabetes.“Thanksgiving has long-standing traditions in every family,” Boaz-Wilson said. “As a person with diabetes, I would feel terrible if the family meal was canceled or altered simply because I have diabetes. That would be drawing negative attention to diabetes. This is a big reason there is so much anger related to diabetes. We want to fit in, not change the game."

Allowing for some indulgences during the holiday season is OK for everyone, including those with diabetes. Be mindful of what you say.“If there is one thing people with diabetes do not like, it is that we know we have diabetes, no one needs to point that out to us,” Boaz-Wilson said. “We make conscious decisions to eat the foods we want to eat. Sometimes we make healthy choices and sometimes we do not make such healthy choices. Having to defend our food selections can be exhausting.”


Attending Thanksgiving at a new location

If you have diabetes, don’t let eating dinner at a new place cause you undue stress. You can still enjoy Thanksgiving with your loved ones wherever you go to eat. If you have diabetes and you want to try and plan ahead, consider letting the host know you have diabetes and ask about the dishes they may have planned. Depending on your familiarity with the person, you could also request certain dishes or volunteer to bring some of your own. Be sure to confirm what time the meal will be served if timing can affect your blood sugar levels. The main thing to keep in mind is portion control. “Common sense goes a long way,” Boaz-Wilson said. “Even if you are eating familiar food, don't forget about portion sizes.” Boaz-Wilson’s offered a few suggestions that apply to everyone, not just to those with diabetes.

1. One plate of food is enough -- if it does not fit on your plate, you probably don't need it.

 2. Make your plate colorful. Adding a variety of colors increases the likelihood that you are including all the basic food groups.

3. If you don't know what something is, don't be afraid to ask.

Tips for creating a healthier Thanksgiving

The Create Your Plate model, designed by the American Diabetes Association, is a handy tool to help you figure out how you should arrange your plate. Once it is dinner time, divide your plate into four. Half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter should be for turkey and the other quarter can have any side dish(es) you want to eat. Remember, it’s all about moderation and portion control. Making healthier choices is a good idea for everyone. Here are a few ways you can make Thanksgiving staples a little healthier.

1. Roast the turkey.

2. Add non-starchy vegetables like onions and mushrooms to your stuffing and use whole-grain or 100% whole-wheat bread.

3. Don’t add extra sour cream or butter to mashed potatoes. Season them with pepper or trans-free and fat-free margarine. Put sour cream and butter on the side for guests to add themselves.

4. Provide reduced-fat cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, salad dressings or other toppings as choices. Fat-free dips are also a good alternative.

5. Offer an unsweetened cranberry sauce in addition to the regular cranberry sauce you serve.


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